Written By: Resby Coutts
When Fort Rouge Curling Club member Keith Johnston became President of CurlManitoba at the provincial association’s annual meeting on September 17, 2022, he continued a tradition of provincial leadership which has seen eight Past-Presidents of the Manitoba Curling Association and Manitoba Ladies Curling Association in the past 50 years.
Johnston follows the path of Spence Shiach, Paul Pelletier and Dan Hildebrand as Presidents of the MCA, Beryl Harding and Nell Stoughton as President of the MLCA, and Resby Coutts, Kim Warburton and Matt Pilloud as Presidents of CurlManitoba.
He also continues a family tradition of leadership and volunteerism. He first curled in Stony Mountain where the family, particularly his grandfather, was very active in the curling club. He was a junior in the Elmwood CC program and he first curled in men’s play at the Springfield CC in Dugald, where his father was an active member and volunteer.
Keith’s first strong recollection of his dad’s volunteer activity was his role as an Accreditation Committee volunteer for the ’78 Air Canada Silver Broom.
Keith curled with his father for a dozen or more years before moving to the Granite and eventually to his long-time curling home at Fort Rouge.
Keith knows the traditions of club leadership and family volunteerism are both important traditions in our curling world but in his new role as CurlManitoba President, he sees an important change as being critical to the future of the sport of curling in Manitoba and Canada.
He served a decade on the Fort Rouge Board and continues as an active Fort Rouge volunteer along with long-time teammates Randy Baraniuk and Glen Tobie who are current FRCC Directors.
“I see a great year ahead for curling in Manitoba, coming out of the pandemic our calendar is back to almost normal,” he says. “That’s great for our current curling population.”
“However, our clubs need to look at where our next generation of curlers will come from and our provincial association has to find ways to support them in that.”
Johnston acknowledges that the expanding population of new Canadians has the potential to change the face of curling but he says it isn’t good enough to just introduce them to the game if clubs don’t also make room in their schedules for them to play the game.
Asked independently for a thought on the challenge facing Johnston, outgoing President Ray Baker pointed to the same issue, not just for Keith or for CurlManitoba.
“The most pressing issue facing our sport across the country is declining participation. It is a challenge we all have to address,” Baker said.
Baker says he thinks Keith is well-suited to the role of President. “He’s articulate and expresses his opinions very well. He has the strength to defend his opinions but he has great respect for other people’s opinions,” Baker said.
“When Keith and I are not quite on the same page, we always have great discussions and we can always get to the same place,” he acknowledges, emphasizing it is not the role of the President to expect support for his own opinion but that leadership is helping the group get to the right place through discussion.
Keith also supports the different roles of the Board of Directors and the CurlManitoba operational staff, emphasizing the Board's role to establish policy and provide guidance.
“All credit to our staff team. Here in Manitoba, we are fortunate to have the operational group we have. We are respected right across the country.” he said. Unspoken is the obvious – why would the President interfere?
The term of CurlManitoba President is currently a two-year term. Fort Rouge member Keith Johnston will serve in that role through the 2023-24 curling season.